‘My Shannon’s Still Alive,’ Insists Her Mother, As Police Pursue 1,400 Sex Offenders

Police are investigating almost 1,400 sex offenders living within a 20-mile radius of the home of missing schoolgirl Shannon Matthews as her mother insists she is still alive.

Karen Matthews today denied that her daughter had run away and said something “sinister” must have happened to her to prevent her returning home.

The nine-year-old vanished more than a fortnight ago, but a huge police search has failed to find any trace of her.

Detectives have now turned their attention to the 1,387 convicted sex offenders who live within half an hour’s drive of the family home in Dewsbury Moor, West Yorkshire.

Hundreds have already been questioned, but police have admitted they have few leads to go on.

Mrs Matthews, however, told GMTV that she remained “convinced” her daughter was still alive.

She said: “Wherever she is she has to be frightened. It’s breaking everyone’s hearts in the streets. They want her back in her own environment.

“I don’t think she has run away, I think something sinister has happened. I’m convinced she is still alive. I know she is.”

She said her partner Craig Meehan had been her “rock”.

“I cry, he cuddles me,” she said, “and when he cries I cuddle him.”

Mr Meehan said he had “not taken much notice” of people linking him to Shannon’s disappearance.

He said: “Me as stepfather, I don’t see it as that, I see her as my own daughter. We get on brilliant, I just want her back.

“I have not taken much notice of fingers being pointed at me. They (the police) do it to every family this happens to…as they can get more information to bring her home.

“We have got to keep hoping and praying. I know she will come back.”

Members of the schoolgirl’s family have been questioned by police as a “matter of routine” during the investigation.

Dogs trained to sniff out human remains have also searched more than 500 addresses as part of the search, but have found nothing.

Shannon was last seen leaving school on February 19 at 3.10pm but she never came home.

Yesterday, police released an extract of the 999 call made by Shannon’s mother, Karen Matthews, at 6.48pm on the night she disappeared.

She becomes emotional as she tells the emergency operator how her daughter has not returned from school.

Panic can be heard in her voice when she says: “I’ve been everywhere I can think of, friends, family and everything.”

She explains there had been no argument in the morning, and there was no way of phoning her daughter because she had left her mobile at home.

The recording breaks off when Miss Matthews tearfully explains it is the first time her daughter has gone missing.

More than 300 police officers are dedicated to the inquiry.

But with “routine” investigations proving fruitless, more resources are likely to be devoted to investigating sex offenders.

A police source said: “In any inquiry like this involving a missing child, making inquiries about sex offenders is an important and standard task.

“In this inquiry it involves a huge amount of work, but every officer involved is determined not to give up.”

Officers also have a mountain of CCTV recordings to trawl through.

Hundreds of hours of pictures taken from street cameras, business premises and buses are being studied to try to track Shannon’s movements.

Yesterday mother-of-seven Miss Matthews said her two-year-old daughter, Courtenay, who shares a bedroom with Shannon, was missing her sister desperately.

Miss Matthews, 32, said: “You hear her shouting for Shannon. It is heartbreaking.”

She added: “Shannon has always loved her room.

“She plays with her toys a lot; it is her own little place and it is very important to her.

“It has seemed so empty since she has been gone, I haven’t been able to go in.

“We think she is out there somewhere and that she is going to come home.

“It is that thought that keeps us going.”